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“Marijuana is Safer” Authors Influence The New York Times

The New York Times has launched a seven-part editorial campaign urging a repeal of the nation’s prohibition on marijuana, making the case that “marijuana is safer” than alcohol. In fact, the bold quote at the center of their editorial stated even more bluntly: “Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol.”

Chelsea Green authors, and nationally recognized marijuana-policy experts Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert, wrote the book on the “Marijuana Is Safer” message. Literally. In fact, they were consulted by Times’ editorial writers in the months leading up to the launch of this important call-to-action by one of the world’s most influential media outlets.

First published in 2009, Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? was updated and expanded in late 2013 with a first-hand look at the historic Colorado marijuana legalization campaign and new information about how supporters can model similarly successful efforts in other states. The book also provides updated research that supports the position that marijuana is safer than alcohol. You can read an excerpt from this game-changing book below.

In 2012, voters in Colorado shocked the nation’s political establishment by making the commercial production, personal use, and retail sale of marijuana legal for anyone in the state twenty-one years of age or older.

The New York Times said Washington should take its cue from Colorado and the growing list of states that have also legalized marijuana. In their opening salvo, the paper’s editorial board writes:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. … “There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults.”

The board backs legalization for ages 21 and older only, and believes that a national solution is needed rather than left to the whims of a particular occupant in the White House or state-by-state piecemeal approach to what is a national issue. The Times is examining and dispensing with many of the myths related to marijuana use, including public safety and health—key issues explored in Marijuana is Safer.

In Marijuana is Safer—through an objective examination of marijuana and alcohol, and the laws and social practices that steer people toward the latter—the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?

Marijuana Is Safer introduces readers to the cannabis plant and its effects on the user, debunks some of the government’s most frequently cited marijuana myths, and, most importantly, provides persuasive arguments and talking points for the millions of Americans who want to advance the cause of marijuana policy reform and educate friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, elected officials, and, of course, future voters.

Now, one of the world’s most widely read and influential opinion pages is adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to the nation’s prohibition on marijuana.

In an AlterNet article, Tony Newman summed up why this is such a big deal: “The Times’ editorial has the feel of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War. They dropped a bomb on our country’s disastrous war on marijuana with unprecedented force. Some people think of the Times‘ editorial page as a liberal mouthpiece — but when it comes to marijuana prohibition and the drug war, they’ve been extremely cautious and conservative. In previous decades, the Times did as much as any other media outlet to legitimize drug war hysteria and its disastrous policies.”

Along with its ongoing series, the Times has included a fun graphic illustrating its own editorial evolution in regards to marijuana.

Earlier this year, Pres. Barack Obama told The New Yorker‘s David Remnick that he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

The times they are a changin’.

Chapter Two: Pot 101: Understanding Marijuana by Chelsea Green Publishing


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